dark patterns

No doubt you’ve been on a web site and clicked on something that you thought was part of the “content”, but instead was either an ad or something unexpected. Those of us that have worked in UI/UX design, the “prime directive” typically is to make life clear and easy for the user. When you boil it down, you are trying to manipulate your user. If you’re providing information, you want them to find that information quickly and easily (minimum number of clicks). If you’re selling something, you want them to find what they want and make it easy to buy (e.g. one-click). But that user manipulation, like everything in life, can cut both ways depending on the intent of the designer. Turns out there is a a term for UI trickery – dark patterns – and of course, a site that even has a Hall of Shame.

I view this as a form of spear phishing – you’re targeting users that you know are interested (as they’re on your site), and you leverage their learned behaviors (from using other sites), and depend on them clicking through without thinking or hovering. Gizomodo reports on government effortsto curb these types of sites/designs. An open question whether or not this requires laws to control as opposed to education of the users (probably a little from column A, a little from column B). I view this as another example of the digital world being a different world than our analog/physical world. While magicians have used sleight of hand for centuries in our real-time world, digital makes it even easier to trick the user. And as convenience trumps all, the idea of quickly clicking through is something we have been trained to do. Will be interesting to see if we can un-Pavlov ourselves…

Share your thoughts